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Apocalypto Now: Abortion and Human Sacrifice in the Americas

by E. Michael Jones

Apocalypto is some indication of how far we have come in a very short time. The base line for Mel Gibson could be The Patriot, produced in 2000, which portrays America from the point of view of its beginnings in the Enlightenment, as a nation of independent yeoman farmers, who, like the character Gibson portrays, only go to war reluctantly, in defense of their freedom, which is under attack by the brutal English. No one in his right mind felt that America was a republic in any meaningful sense of the word in the year 2000, but someone felt that the exercise in nostalgia that The Patriot bespoke had some hortatory or moral value. Smithsonian did a cover story on it historic factuality. It was a bit like conservatives claiming that they read Burke and found him a relevant guide for our age. It was implausible but possible, I suppose.


Apocalypto is an indication that “everything has changed,” as the cliché used to go, in the wake of 9/11 or, for Gibson perhaps, in the wake of The Passion of the Christ and the beating he took at the hands of the Jews. Like Apocalypto, The Patriot is a revenge movie. You kill my people, I kill yours. The scene of Mel unable to stop hacking away at the Redcoat in The Patriot gives some indication that we are talking about more than self-defense. The difference between Apocalypto and The Patriot is that The Patriot has lots of ideology behind it, which makes the revenge look less repugnant than it really is. Apocalypto is a revenge movie with all of the ideological justification stripped away. The Passion of the Christ was a deeply Catholic movie, but if Gibson’s other movies are any indication of the hierarchy of values in his soul, Christianity finishes a distant third or fourth in the values which he holds as important. Value #1 is family, Value #2 is revenge, Value #3 is freedom of the American patriot sort that sees the fulfillment of freedom as being left alone. After all that, Christianity emerges as something that vaguely seconds all of these emotions. The most significant thing that has happened between the 2000 premiere of The Patriot and the 2006 premiere of Apocalypto is that Gibson’s illusions about America have disappeared. There is no longer an America that can support Mel’s mythology, not even one which exists in his mind.  Mel Gibson’s America is like Mel Gibson’s Catholic Church; neither is visible. The real Catholic Church exists somewhere in Mel Gibson’s mind psychically next door to the real America, which no longer finds expression in his movies.


America is no longer colonial South Carolina, where yeoman farmers come together to forge a Republic based on their reading of Roman and Greek classical literature and the Whiggery of John Locke.  America is now the Mayan empire, the land of the banner of the sun, whose people are favored by God and destined to rule the earth. This becomes clear in a harangue given by the Mayan priest, whose duty is to cut the hearts out of prisoners of war so that fertility can return to a soil depleted by slash and burn farming. The priest’s rhetoric is a combination of George W. Bush’s “you’re either for us or against us” speech and a Bill Kristol article which could be found in any given issue of the Weekly Standard. The neoconservative Mayan priest addresses his harangue to the people Mel Gibson now portrays as the average American, a mob of besotted drug-crazed NFL fans, whose main sporting event is capturing in nets the heads of sacrificed prisoners of war as they bounce down the steps of the pyramid temple where human sacrifice takes place. The main difference here is that in modern American the sports fans paint themselves blue. In meso-America, this honor was reserved for those who were about to have their hearts cut out.  The primitive meso-Americans were hunter-gatherers, like Jaguar Paw, the hero of Apocalypto, whose people get captured by the advanced meso-Americans, who engage in slash and burn farming—and human sacrifice when the soil gets depleted. Apocalypto is a movie about how to survive in a culture based on human sacrifice.


The modern American equivalent to Aztec and Mayan human sacrifice is, of course, abortion. Mel Gibson, the visceral Catholic and father of seven children, is, of course, viscerally opposed to abortion, as were the majority of Americans until the Jews like Bernard Nathanson (who later repented) began their campaigns (campaigns I have described in these pages, e.g., CW, June 2006) to get abortion legalized in New York and California. Other people have noticed the connection between abortion in the United States and human sacrifice in meso-America. I am one of those other people, at least that’s how I came across to myself after reading an article I wrote in 1984 comparing the Aztecs and the Democratic Party, both of whom were supportive of sodomy and human sacrifice. In an article entitled “Religion and Politics American-Style,” which appeared in the December 1984 issue of Fidelity, I claimed that “Sodomy and human sacrifice were integral parts of public policy in America before the arrival of Christianity. The devil ruled America with what must have seemed like an unshakable grasp. It’s a tribute to the devil’s tenacity that he has re-extended his grip after close to 500 years to include the majority party of the most powerful country in this hemisphere.”


What I find remarkable now is the fact that I somehow felt that the Republican Party was against sodomy and human sacrifice. I felt this way in December 1984 largely because in November 1984 I had been invited to a White House conference on, if not abortion, then certainly the moral issues which fell under the emanations of the penumbra of the abortion issue. Can anyone in his right mind imagine E. Michael Jones getting invited to a White House conference in 2006? That I got invited to a White House conference then was even more remarkable because of what it says about the White House than what it said about me. They, in this instance, was Steve Galebach, who was as sincere in wanting to do something about abortion as I was. Call us naive, but we both felt that the Republicans in Reagan’s second term were going to do something about abortion. Like Mel Gibson in his Patriot phase, we thought the American people had some moral vision and that the Republican Party was going to act on it. Or, as I said back then,


Try to think of one founding father, one Puritan, or one contemporary of Lincoln who could imagine the majority party in this country taking its cue from the Aztecs and making sodomy and human sacrifice a part of its platform. That that party went down to defeat [in the 1984 presidential elections] is a tribute to the moral vision of the American people. That that platform ever got proposed in the first place is a sign of how serious our troubles are and the magnitude of the battle that yet needs to be fought.


Backing me up in my contention—i.e., that the American people had a “moral vision” when it came to abortion and that the Republican Party was going to do something about it— was Thomas J. Ashcraft, then legislative assistant to Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina.


“My ultimate evaluation [of abortion],” Ashcraft told me when I interviewed him in Senator Helms’ office, “is that in essence it’s demonic because it’s a direct attack on the human race. It’s a direct attack on God’s creation of individual human beings. Estimates now are that there are over 50,000,000 surgical abortions a year in the world. Anybody who values innocent human life because of the redemptive work of Our Lord and that He died for every human being . . . I don’t think that you can look at it in any other terms than being a very evil thing and the work of the demon. I think it’s impossible to understand the abortion thing outside the terms of good and evil. It’s as basic and as old as the human race.”


When, I am tempted to ask, was the last time you heard a Republican politician or staffer talk like that?  Probably 1984, which, it turns out was nowhere as Orwellian as the period which followed or the language of the Republican Party since that time. Was I naive? Were we? In a sense we were. The abortion issue was over by the end of the second year of Reagan’s first term, when the right to life movement split down the middle. The bishops and National Right to Life endorsed the Hatch amendment. The hard-liners endorsed Senator Helms’ bill. In the end, neither passed. President Reagan then consigned the issue to the realm of “benign neglect,” to appropriate the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s term for Nixon’s attitude toward the Civil Rights movement. On the other hand, even if we were naïve, I still think Tom Ashcraft believed what he said, as did Senator Helms.


Unfortunately, they were replaced with people who did not, and their name is Legion. So Legion in fact, one hardly knows where to begin. Shall we begin with the fact that this (the winter of 1984-5) was the time when Irving Kristol protégé Michael Joyce became head of the Bradley Foundation and the neoconservatives began their triumphal if subversive march through conservative institutions? What followed was a parade of thugs, liars, and prostitutes— all of whom were every bit as determined to preserve the hegemony of human sacrifice in American culture as the Democrats, but whose only distinction was that they were more duplicitous than the Democrats. As I said, their name is Legion, but I’m thinking in particular of people like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, who came to power in 1994 and told the prolife movement they would have to wait a bit because tax breaks for the rich were more pressing than saving the lives of the unborn.


And then, two years later, there was Bob Dole and Ralph Reed, the man who made him the Republican nominee against the incumbent Clinton by destroying Pat Buchanan’s campaign in South Carolina. At the time, I thought Ralph Reed was working for Pat Robertson, who was certainly vociferous in his opposition to abortion. It turns out however, that I was naïve again, something I learned from Murray Friedman’s book The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and American Foreign Policy. 


Unlike Jerry Falwell, head of the Moral Majority, who gave the impression that he would rather handle snakes at a church service in east Kentucky than talk with people like Abe Foxman, Ralph Reed, the head of the Christian coalition, grew up in Miami, in what he described as a “Jewish atmosphere” (all subsequent quotes on Reed are taken from Friedman’s book). To the uninitiated, Ralph Reed appeared to be the protégé of televangelist Pat Robertson. Their theologies were the same, which is to say, politically identical with Jerry Falwell’s dispensationalism, which saw the Jews as God’s chosen people and the state of Israel as divinely willed by God.


In reality, however, Ralph Reed was the protégé of Jack Abramoff, the Washington lobbyist who would go to jail in the early 21st century for influence peddling. Reed was to the evangelicals what Bill Buckley had been to an earlier generation of Catholics. Abramoff, an orthodox Jew whom Friedman describes as having been a “conservative firebrand at Brandeis University” not only gave Reed his first job in Washington when he hired him as a political intern in 1981, he also invited Reed to live in his home, where he presumably ate off of a separate set of dishes,  “attended services with him, and introduced Abramoff to his wife, who came from Georgia.” Abramoff found Reed “incredibly philo-Semitic,” and Reed reciprocated by dealing harshly with anti-Semitism whenever it reared its ugly head among the College Republicans. In 1983 Reed succeeded Abramoff as executive director of the National College Republicans. Like William Buckley before him, “Reed used his influence to prevent the more extreme elements within the conservative movement from taking over the GOP.” Like Buckley, Reed invariably consulted a Jewish calculus when determining which elements were to be denominated “extreme.”


When the ADL shot itself in the foot by attacking the Christian Right, Israel’s most faithful allies in America, it was Ralph Reed who played the role of healer, addressing the ADL’s national leadership on April 3, 1995. Having gone to school with Jack Abramoff, Reed told the ADL that “the Christian Coalition believes in a nation that is not officially Christian,” and as such it was against school prayer—a statement which reportedly infuriated Reed’s ostensible mentor Pat Robertson. Reed went on to say the same thing to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) one month later, prompting Elliott Abrams, who attended the AIPAC meeting, to exclaim that Jews “need Ralph Reed.”


Reed showed the neocons just how much they needed him when he derailed Pat Buchanan’s second presidential bid by throwing Christian Coalition support behind Senator Bob Dole in the 1996 South Carolina Republican primary. Buchanan’s loss in South Carolina took the steam out of his campaign. Deprived of what was in many ways one of his natural constituencies by Reed’s effort, Buchanan’s political movement simply evaporated, to the point where he lacked the political clout even to address the 1996 convention. Friedman credits Reed with “the modernization of Christian conservatism.” Given Yuri Slezkine’s understanding of modernity, this would mean aligning Evangelical votes to Jewish interests, which is precisely how Friedman interprets Reed’s role in the South Carolina primary:


Buchanan’s George Wallace-like populism, his isolationism, and his attacks on neocons for their strong support of Israel outraged Jews; his isolationism also turned off mainstream conservatives. Quietly, Reed threw the weight of the Christian Coalition behind moderate Senator Bob Dole in the crucial South Carolina primary. Buchanan’s loss there dealt a fatal blow to his campaign, and Reed was widely credited with causing his defeat.


When Ralph Reed left the Christian Coalition saddled in debt to become a “lobbyist,” he returned to his roots by linking up with Jack Abramoff, playing Indian tribes off against each other in their efforts to start gambling casinos and profiting handsomely from his role as a double agent. In 2002, Reed, who by then had become a political consultant in Atlanta and chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, joined Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein in forming “a sort of Christian AIPAC.” On May 2, 2003, the ADL took out an ad in the New York Times, in which Reed hailed the Jewish state’s continued survival as “proof of God’s sovereignty.”


To be fair to William F. Buckley, he once criticized the ADL for giving an award to Playboy magazine publisher Hugh Hefner. Because of their idiosyncratic theology, Reed and the dispensationalists couldn’t even muster that sort of token opposition to the ADL, prompting ADL director Foxman, whose organization had denounced Reed and his followers as hatemongers, to announce, “I am proud to have Ralph Reed as a friend and as an advocate on Israel.”




If there is one group responsible for the abandonment of abortion as an issue among conservatives and Republicans, it is the Jewish Messianic sect of Trotskyites known as neoconservatives. When the term finally emerged as a word in general political parlance, Max Boot wrote an op ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he admitted that neoconservatives had never felt that abortion was an important issue, compared, say, with the continued survival and US tax-funded well-being of Israel. Jews like Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz and their offspring subverted the word conservative in a way that ensured that in the end more people who die because the Republican Party under their tutelage abandoned abortion as an issue in any real sense and got that party to embark upon a series of disastrous wars in the Middle East.


All of this was far over the temporal horizon in 1984. This is how the issue looked to me in 1984:


After a few days in Washington one comes away with the sense that winning the election was simply a way of continuing the battle. If Reagan had lost, if Helms had lost, there would be virtually no battle on the social issues.


At the heart of the issue stands Mr. Reagan himself and the staffing decisions he will make for his second term. According to one White House aide, choosing William Clark as Chief of Staff would signal a victory for prolife forces. The choice of Michael Deaver would be “a disaster.” The choice of James Baker or Drew Lewis would reaffirm the status quo.


Deaver was, of course, chosen as Reagan’s chief of staff, and disaster, of course, followed, but not in a way that I or the anonymous staffer could have predicted then. As one more indication of just how far we have come, two days before the premiere of Apocalypto, James Baker reemerged into the public spotlight when he issued the report of the Iraq Study Group. In that report, Baker and a bipartisan group of WASPs claimed that the neocon War in Iraq was the gravest danger the Republic had faced in the history of his involvement in public life. Once again the consigliere of the Bush family had to rescue Dubya from the consequences of his own stupidity and imprudence. Only this time the issue was more serious than one more DUI arrest. This time it looked as if the whole empire was going to go down the drain because the Jews, who were conspicuous by their absence from the ranks of the Iraq Study Group, had used Dubya to get America involved in what was now an obviously unwinnable war in Iraq.  For his pains, Baker was denounced as an anti-Semite by Rush Limbaugh, who could have put in a cameo role in Apocalypto as one of the drug-crazed Mayans cheering on the blood-spattered priest talking about the destiny of the doomed people of the banner of the sun.


Doom, in fact, is the feeling that suffuses both Apocalypto and the country which went to see it. As Jaguar’s Paw and his fellow captives are being marched through the wasteland that slash and burn cultures have to create to survive, a young girl afflicted with a fatal disease prophecies doom for the land of the banner of the sun. Montezuma, the ruler of the Aztecs, was afflicted with a similar feeling of foreboding. He had heard that white gods were going to travel to Mexico from across the sea and destroy his kingdom. Mel Gibson must have heard of the prophecy because that is how Apocalypto ends.


After being saved from being sacrificed on the pyramid by an eclipse of the sun, Jaguar Paw escapes into the jungle and hurries home to save his pregnant wife. For the last hour of the movie, we watch him outrun and eventually kill all but two of his pursuers. They finally catch up to Jaguar’s Paw on the beach and are about to bash his brains in with their obsidian maces when the deus ex machina appears. The Deus in question is Christ, and the machina is the Spanish Galleons which brought both Conquistadors like Hernando Cortes and Franciscan monks like Fray Bartolomeo de Diaz to the New World.


At this point, the message of Apocalypto becomes clear: America has become so corrupt, largely because of the institutionalization of abortion/human sacrifice, that it can no longer be reformed from within. The days of the Patriot are over; the American experiment in ordered liberty has failed because liberty was redefined as sexual license, and sexual license requires abortion/human sacrifice as its guarantee. Mayan/Aztec culture was too corrupt to be reformed from within; it had to be swept away by the sword before a true meso-American culture could flourish in its place, and that culture, so Gibson seems to be saying, can only flourish under the sign of the cross. We need the deus ex machina to bring down the curtain on this play.


At this point in the film, the message becomes less clear. Jaguar Paw’s two pursuers step toward the Spaniards, but Jaguar Paw himself retreats back into the jungle. If he wanted a film with an unambiguously Christian ending, Gibson should have had the three Indians, formerly at each others’ throats, now reconciled to each other, kneeling in front of the cross. That is, in fact, what happened in the aftermath of Cortes’s conquest of Mexico, largely as a result of the miraculous appearance of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. This is how I portrayed that event in 1984:


Cortes sued for peace numerous times during his siege of Tenochtitlan, but in the end found that the devil-god Huitzilopochtli had become so accustomed to human blood that he would rather see the Aztec capital destroyed than relinquish his grasp on it. Washington is not Tenochtitlan, but after spending a few days there, one comes away with the impression that the battle over human sacrifice in our day will be every bit as protracted.


Having seen the movie, I can’t decide whether Mel Gibson read my article or not. The idea isn’t all that farfetched, certainly not as farfetched as the idea of E. Michael Jones getting invited to a White House conference. One of the people who was impressed with the article at the time was none other than soon-to-be presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who cited my article in one of his syndicated columns. “The other day,” Pat wrote in a syndicated column which appeared in the January 23, 1985 issue of The Washington Times—right around the time of the Washington Right to Life March, “Fidelity, a new magazine put out by traditionalist Catholics, almost all of whom are scholars, priests, or doctors arrived. The lead editorial drew comparisons between the Aztec civilization Cortes discovered and the America of 1985.” Both Pat and I agreed at the time that “the Democratic Party is possessed by the devil” because of its support of sodomy and human sacrifice. Both of us thought that the Republicans believed in something better. Now the Republicans have gone down to defeat much as the Democrats did in 1984, and it looks as if they are going to drag the prolife movement with them because of a quarter of a century of hypocrisy, mendacity, and duplicity in their dealings with the constituency who thought they were going to put an end to human sacrifice in America. Either way—through Fidelity or through Pat’s column—the association between Washington and Tenochtitlan, as well as the association between human sacrifice and abortion escaped into the ether of public discourse.


Mel Gibson now seems to be disagreeing with me. Apocalypto’s message is pretty clear in this regard. Washington is Tenochtitlan in Mel Gibson’s mind. I, however, remain by my original assertion: I still claim that Washington is not Tenochtitlan; Washington is now far worse than Tenochtitlan. Who are we, I found myself wondering at the end of the movie, to badmouth the Aztecs and Mayans, who may have marched thousands of captives up their pyramids and cut out their still-beating hearts, but in the end murdered in the course of a century only a fraction of the children we slaughter every year? Only a neoconservative—like Max Boot or Bill Kristol or David Frum—who was in the grip of the most arrant Messianic fever could look at America and still see the Puritan “city on a hill,” and they can only do that by assiduously ignoring the abortion issue and focusing instead on the failed Messianic state of Israel as their model. A Catholic can’t look at the Aztecs or the Mayans and their penchant for human sacrifice and not think of the United States by way of comparison. That is why Steven Spielberg never could have made this movie.


And yet, for all of its visceral Catholicism, Apocalypto ends on a note of ambivalence, one that must mirror Mel Gibson’s ambivalence about both America and the Catholic Church. If Mel Gibson really wanted to infuriate the Jews who savaged him over The Passion of the Christ, he should have had the three Indians kneel down in front of the cross, reconciled to each other by Christ’s saving love. Instead, Gibson has the hero of the film retreat back into the woods with his wife. As if to underline his ambivalence, Gibson has Jaguar Paw’s wife ask—with the Spanish Galleons in the background—, “Should we go to them?” “No,” he responds, “Our place is in the forest.”


So after starting off with a Catholic ending to his film, Gibson reverts to the old American and turns Jaguar’s Paw into the meso-American version of Huck Finn, who ends up by lighting out for the territories, because Aunt Sally (or the Catholic Church) “is going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”

Well, haven’t we all? Or have we? Mel Gibson doesn’t want to be “sivilized.” He prefers revenge over forgiveness, even if the failure of the American experiment has deprived him of an ideological justification for his revenge.  In the end, Mel Gibson is ambivalent about both America and the Catholic Church. He prefers to worship in a Church that is not visible and live in an America that is as fictitious as the one portrayed in The Patriot. The one thing that the United States has never been is Catholic. It remains, as a result, to see which deus ex machina arrives on its shores to save it from itself. Will the meek—i.e., the Mexicans—inherit the earth?  They will—pace, Pat—if we’re lucky.CW

E.  Michael Jones is editor of Culture Wars.

This review was published in the February 2007 issue of Culture Wars.

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